The Fan Hitch   Volume 18, Number 4, September 2016

          Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog                                    
In This Issue....

From the Editor

Passage - Siu-Ling Han

Passage - Benson E. Ginsburg

Building & Testing Astrup's Dog Sled

The Arctic Nomads Project

Zacharias Kunuk’s Latest Film

The Chinook Project’s 2016 Wellness Clinics in Canada’s North

Canadian Inuit Dogs I have owned, raised and trained: a photo essay; Part 4

Book Review: Padlei Diary

Index: Volume 18, The Fan Hitch

Navigating This Site

Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

Search The Fan Hitch

Articles to download and print

Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

Defining the Inuit Dog

Talk to The Fan Hitch

The Fan Hitch home page

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
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Zacharias Kunuk’s Latest Film

Zacharias Kunuk saw his latest film, Maliglutit (Searchers), premier at the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) September 12, 13 and 17, 2016. Kunuk is the multiple award-winning filmmaker, co-founder of Igoolik Isuma Productions (now Kingulliit Productions), and co-writer-producer, director of the recently (2015) declared all time number one Canadian film Atanarjuat: the Fast Runner (2001).

Maliglutit (Searchers) Synopsis
Nunavut, circa 1913; a party in the family circle is disrupted when one of the men starts making moves on the wife of another. As the argument heats up, Kupak, the leader of four fierce hunters who resent providing for the others, affirms their right to do whatever they want with whomever they choose. But two elders intervene to banish the rowdy men forever. The four leave in a huff, and the festivities resume.

After supper the next night, grandfather Ituk asks for his diving stone to consult the oracle Apisaaq. The family watches intently as he pulls on a rope to lift the stone. It becomes lighter and heavier in response to each of his questions, until he has learned that caribou are to the east. He thanks Apisaaq for helping him, as always. The next morning his son Kuanana and eldest grandson Siku set out for the hunt.

Kuanana counts out his three remaining bullets, hoping to bag two caribou with one shot. Then he charges his son with keeping the dogs quiet.

Meanwhile, the four hunters are tired, frustrated and hungry when they stop for tea. A shot rings out. They pack up and take off toward it, convinced they will find women in that direction.
Kuanana’s parents, wife, daughter and younger son come to the end of a quiet evening, dreaming of the caribou they will enjoy the next day. As they settle in to sleep, the roar of a polar bear approaching the igloo frightens them. A hole breaks open and the four hunters rush in to kidnap Kuanana’s wife Ailla and daughter Tagaq and kill his son Anguti. They leave his parents for dead.

Kuanana arrives the next morning in time for his father to pass on his helping spirit amulet and urge his son to call on the loon Kallulik for guidance.

Kuanana sets off immediately with Siku to find his wife and daughter.


Kunuk said, “As a child I heard stories of women being kidnapped. Albeit rare in our day, wife stealing may be as old as Inuit culture itself. We began by imagining what it would feel like to live through or witness a kidnapping then tried to find the emotional truth of the situation. Our intent was to always keep it real. We resolved to shoot the film in March to capture the land as it is for most of the year – frozen. It was by far the coldest shoot I had ever worked on – but there again, there is no replacing the real thing. Despite inherent challenges, we were committed to depicting the land in winter as a major player. The script was detailed enough to anchor the story but little more. One line read “Kuanana and Siku return from seal hunting.” In a conventional script, behavior and dialogue would appear on the page. But in our way of working, the one line was all we needed. The actors were thereby freed up to do everything they would normally do after returning from a seal hunt. This method delivered a good level of freshness and authenticity every step of the way.

Jonathan Frantz, the film’s director of photography commented, “We spent thirty days shooting this film in the middle of the winter in one of the coldest places on earth. The majority of the film consists of exterior shots, where the temperature fluctuated between minus‐30 and minus‐42 Celsius before windchill. Interiors were shot in igloos where the temperature was a relatively balmy minus‐20 Celsius. Even with experienced dog teams and dog handlers, it was challenging to set up shots and have the dogs follow the plan. In one instance the dogs were tracking perfectly for a shot, but at the last minute one of them broke off and headed right for the camera. The dog managed to loop his line around and bring the camera crashing down with the operator. Thankfully, only a lens was broken.”

Maliglutit (Searchers), running time of 94 minutes, will also screen in Vancouver in the fall and October again in Toronto at other festivals that have not yet officially made this public.  Kingulliit Productions will be submitting the film to more festivals. Stay tuned for dates!

Follow Maliglutit (Searchers) on the web at Isuma TV and Facebook


Zacharias Kunuk is currently shooting a new seven‐part documentary series Hunting With My Ancestors, following an ancient way of life in one of the harshest environments on earth.

Ed: The Fan Hitch wishes to thank Maliglutit’s co-producer, Cara Di Staulo for providing the information for this article.

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